“My 1st breast cancer surgery was a lumpectomy. The 2nd surgery, 3 years later was a mastectomy.” This post is about my lack of understanding about what to do after the tram flap reconstruction operation failed, what you are not told and what you can do. Oh, a tram flap is when part of the abdominal muscle group (skin, tissue, fat) is moved onto the breast area. “TMI?” Now, along the way, there is a muscle cut, a ‘new’ belly button, and some other things happen. To make a longer story short, my breast mound did not grow and there were complications.
Even when one has a successful tram flap, there is usually another surgery to resize the other breast so they similar in size. Anyway, I had some decisions to make. I now had a choice of having saline or silicone implants, which would mean 2-3 additional surgeries or doing nothing. “I was done.” Or so I thought.
Care & Spending
I elected to do nothing else, just to buy prosthesis. If you lose weight for your health & to lower the chances of a recurrence, the real breast changes size. So, after losing weight, I had to buy new smaller prosthesis.
I went in a couple of years after purchasing the first couple of prosthesis and the salesperson informed me “women usually get a new ones every year”. Ha! They cost too much for that even WITH flex spending funds.
What do people do without insurance help or flex spending funds? Of course, some women do not use a prosthesis, they simply stuff their bras with soft cotton or some don’t replace the area with anything.
I felt blind-sided because I had no idea what to do about a failed surgery. The options, more surgeries, more drains, pain and uncertainty left my mind spinning. Talking with others in similar situations in my CROSS church group helped, as did talking with other psychologists to decide what I needed to do to handle the depression I was feeling. “Physician heal thyself”, just didn’t seem to cut it.
When I talked with a colleague who had experienced a traumatic event and mentioned PTSD, I realized that was what I was experiencing. As we go through this breast cancer experience we need information about PTSD and the depression often felt, as well as,ways of handling it.
– I do wish the doctors had told me I would have no feeling in my chest or abdomen after the breast was removed.
– I wish the surgeons had told me the number of surgeries I would have to have, which differed depending on the type of reconstruction.
– I wish the doctors had mentioned after the tram flap I would have a new belly button, etc.
– I wish they had shared with me that I might go through feelings of depression or the loss of perspective about who I was.
– I wish I had known I might have concerns about how I looked, intimacy and feelings of normalcy.
Women who have mastectomies are not told many things they need to know. Information is needed about lymphedema, prevention and lymph node removal. Additionally, knowing what can be done to reduce the swelling of our arm is important. One way to get this information is through receiving rehabilitation services which occurs after the mastectomy to help mobilize the arm and have a full range of motion.
– We have the ability to ask questions of our health care providers.
– We have the ability to go to appointments with our questions written down or in our phone.
– We have the ability to get information from psychologists to assist us in dealing with this breast cancer experience.
– We have the ability to seek people who can help us understand how to handle PTSD and look forward to the ‘post traumatic growth’ afterwards.
– You can do this!